Heaven 17 at the Town Hall, Birmingham UK – 14th February 2014

Posted by Zyllah Moranne-Brown on Friday Feb 14, 2014 Under 80s, Electronica

Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

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So on this Valentine’s eve, storms are plummeting the UK but in Brum the weather isn’t too bad, although traffic out of town doesn’t look the best. But that’s okay cos we’ve been tempted –  we’re in town and we all be snug and cosy in Birmingham’s Town Hall for an evening of romance, Heaven 17 style.

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Indeed Heaven 17 have a back story. Inspired by the godfathers of electronica Kraftwerk, two members of the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh walked away and formed a band / production company B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation). Initially recording music under the guise of B.E.F., they subsequently recruited photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals and eventually became Heaven 17. Now it is just Gregory and Ware, accompanied by two lasses on vocals and Berenice on supporting keyboards. And no support tonight and we’re told they’ll be promptly on at 8pm and off after an hour and 10. Early night for us then. It’s about half full in the beautiful Town Hall, if it be a tad austere. So it’ll be interesting, to see if Heaven 17 can deliver in such a venue, especially that all that is on on stage, against the black- clothed backdrop, are two keyboards and four mike stands.

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Cheers from the crowd as Ware, then Gregory in dapper suit, takes to the stage. First up League song ‘Circus of Death’. This is Heaven 17’s first gig of 2014 (although Ware quips that Gregory still thinks  it’s 1981 or earlier). The beat delivers us next ‘known’ track (given that when it was originally released, at a time when most kids listened to Radio 1, DJ Mike Read effectively banned it due to its left wing lyrics.) ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ comes across great live; Gregory’s voice is still strong, deep and sultry. There is no ‘set’, no exotic lighting or effects –  just these guys performing. They are indeed be great live (I’ve seen them before) but not sure this is the best venue for them especially given as we’re seated.  But even up here in the dizzying heights of the Circle, people are on their feet and dancing as we’re into ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry.’

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Gregory quips that he was learning lyrics on the way here, as they deliver ‘Play to Win.’ Most the crowd are on their feet now and the atmosphere is indeed beginning to permeate through the venue. “Don’t sit down again….” Gregory orders the crowd in a friendly way, as they deliver us ‘Geisha Boys and Temple Girls’. And now another early League track, ‘Black Hit of Space’, as Ware gets to play with his theremin (as he moves his hand between the electronic antennas we get a spooky Dr Who-like effect).

We’re promised they’re writing a new album  which may be with us by the end of the year (but maybe not it’s been a fair few years since the last new release). The band explain that its like a creative love fest, without the sex. “It’s like being married then..” shouts an audience member.

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‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ is followed by the sultry and smoozy ‘Come With Me’; a great rendition that goes down well. Happy Valentines indeed Birmingham.  Next track, we feel like we are waiting for aliens to land, and electronica (plus the theremin) gets noticeably spooky, bizarrely this is ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’; Gregory’s vocals are incredibly powerful against the electronic backdrop. He’s accompanied by Ware (who’s vocal may not quite match the power of his colleague). “He’s my Valentine…”  – Gregory points to Ware and we all laugh.

And next up a track that ‘kills’ Gregory every time he performs it live ‘We Live So Fast’, which indeed cranks up the pace  faster and faster… ‘I’m Your Money’ accompanied by a joke that it was written last week, as they’re living in the present and not thirty years ago.

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Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ – Gregory’s powerful vocals cover one of the legend’s tracks, however it lacks the powerful bluesy guitar of the original. Interpreted pretty true to the original,  it would have been nice to see the guys play around B.E.F. style  Then Ware’s and Gregory’s favourite Heaven 17 song ‘Let Me Go’, before the 12 inch mega house-influenced remix, with a bit of ‘Love to Love You Baby’,  that is their classic hit ‘Temptation.’ It very nearly blows the roof off.

Quick break and they’re back, “Let’s keep put in the party mood…” as Heaven 17 deliver us ‘Penthouse and Pavement’. Next song dedicated to the local club night where they’ve PA’d –  ‘Only After Dark.’ Clap. Clap Clap. Clap. Listen to the voice of Buddha, we are indeed as we’re into the League’s ‘Being Boiled.’

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The set thankfully was longer than anticipated – Heaven 17 gave us 1 hour and 35 of their time. I’m not sure this is the best venue for them –  they are more suited to a more intimate, club type venue where we can all get down and party. And indeed they gave us some stand out tracks tonight ‘Come With Me’, ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and ‘Temptation’ very possibly the stand out. Bit more of a mixed set than I’ve seen before but still a good punt. They will be out over the summer in the 80s ‘Rewind’ festivals and, if they get their act together, I would suspect will be back with their new album in tow. Be tempted.

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Setlist
Circus of Death
We Don’t Need This (Fascist Groove Thang)
Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
Play to Win
Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
Dive
Black Hit of Space
Let’s All Make A Bomb
Come Love With Me
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
We Live So Fast
I’m Your Money
Boys Keep Swinging
Let Me Go
Temptation

Encore:
Penthouse and Pavement
Only After Dark
Being Boiled

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Listening:
Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap (1983)
BEF  – ‘Music For Stowaways’ and ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol.1’

One Response to “Heaven 17 at the Town Hall, Birmingham UK – 14th February 2014”

  1. Heaven 17 @ Town Hall, Birmingham UK, Friday 14 February 2014 » Musings of a Creative Mind Says:

    […] for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken […]

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